St Andrews teams up with NUS to set a new national agenda for Learning and Teaching
St Andrews’s Sabbaticals teamed up with the Executive Committee of the NUS to set an ambitious agenda for Learning and Teaching at the 9th Annual Scottish Enhancement Conference on Wednesday and Thursday.
The conference was organised by the National Enhancement Theme, the government organisation responsible for promoting excellence in learning and teaching in Scotland. It was held at the Edinburgh conference Centre at Herriot Watt University and attended by senior academic and service staff from institutions across Scotland, national representative and teaching organisation and some student delegates.
In a keynote speech, described as “a call to arms” by NUS President Robin Parker and “rousing” by Professor Andrea Nolan (Senior Vice principal at the University of Glasgow and Chair of the Scottish Higher Education enhancement Committee) St Andrews’ Director of Representation Sam Fowles and NUS Exec member Correen Dickson called for Higher Education to play a greater role in a better society. They argued:
[Higher education] instils asking questions as a necessity, debate as a virtue and innovation as the right of all. And these are the pillars of citizenship, ladies and gentlemen. These are what society needs: innovation to drive it forward and debate to keep it accountable. And this is what higher education can deliver.
Fowles and Dickson called for a focus on four themes to achieve this: “Widening Access”, “Internationalisation”, “Employability” and “Empowering those who teach”. But Fowles warned
We believe citizenship must be and is a fundamental calling for higher education. But citizenship is a mosaic, not a monolith. We’ve talked about four themes this afternoon but each one would be a thousand times the poorer for being taken in isolation. Like a mosaic, our aspiration is greater than the sum of its parts and each shade gives meaning to the others.
He also counselled against “sacrificing the existing jewels of academia at the alter of our job prospects”
Over the course of a further two panel debates Fowles and Dickson pushed for a greater partnership between academics and students in shaping the curriculum and for universities to show greater leadership in social debates. Dickson told the conference it was time to “spice things up”.
Director of Student Development and Activities, David Graves lead workshops on the latest innovations in employability. Postgraduate President Holly Patrick joined Fowles in presenting on St Andrews’ own innovation in promoting debate in higher education.
The conference was an important first test for the alliance with NUS that Association President Patrick O’Hare and Fowles have worked to build this year. The enthusiastic acceptance of the joint proposals by the Conference was seen as a demonstration of the positive impact this relationship can have in the future.
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